A Flintshire Sea Cadet has been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to young people during Covid-19.

John Challenger, now 17, is to receive the award for his work during the pandemic to help keep the 2,300 Sea Cadets spread across North Wales and the North West together.

BEM’s are awarded for a ‘hands-on service to the local community’ and sees the teenager, who joined the Sea Cadets at the age of ten, honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

The 17-year-old, now the senior cadet in the region known as ‘First Sea Lord Cadet’ is to receive the award for a number of reasons including devising and running a weekly virtual quiz, engaging with over 300 cadets during the early weeks of lockdown.

John was also able to run the North West Cadet forums virtually during lockdown and his work led him to be invited to be a full member of the region’s Volunteer Management Team, reporting in weekly as the ‘Cadet Voice’.

He said, “We are all facing new and difficult challenges due to Covid-19 and are learning new techniques to provide training for cadets virtually, but with many staff being key workers and some cadets having limited or no internet access, it is not always possible to engage everyone.

“I believe that many young people have struggled with mental health, feeling unable to balance school work, cadets and keeping in touch with family and friends. However, the Sea Cadets has been working hard to reduce these difficulties for staff and cadets by building up networks of support that stretch throughout the country and aim to help us all through this challenging time.”

Admiral Tony Radakin CB ADC, First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, said, “This is an outstanding achievement at such a young age and a real example of the importance of the Sea Cadet Corps.  John has demonstrated the qualities of selflessness, dedication and teamwork that epitomise the whole of the Royal Navy family, and he has helped so many young people in North Wales, the North West and across the UK at a difficult time.”

“He has gone far above and beyond his duties as a First Sea Lord Cadet and I am delighted that he has been honoured with this award.”

On news of receiving the award John  said, “I was quite shocked as I didn’t realise what I had been doing with the Sea Cadets had had enough of an impact for me to receive something like this, however I am proud to be receiving this honour.

“By forcing us to relocate onto online training the pandemic has made us more resilient as an organisation and has allowed us to develop our communication skills.

“In addition, it has made us all more empathetic towards each other and has allowed us to learn about delivering training through a new and inventive medium, something which may continue even after the restrictions loosen.”

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